Strangled blades

strangled aggsbachThese are three strangled blades from the Aurignacian of S/W France (on the left), S/W-Germany and the Negev (Israel) [Fig. 1]. Interestingly such blades have recently detected in the S-African MSA. At Diepkloof Rock Shelter a laminar pre-Howiesons Poort industry with many strangled blades has recently documented. Such artifacts are also present in aHowiesons Poort industry context at Klipdrift shelter and they also occur during the N-African Epipaleolithic and in the Epipaleolithic of Upper Egypt and Nubia. Anyhow, in Europe and the Near East, they are usually highly specific for the early Aurignacian.

strangulated blade cottes katzbach aggsbachThe Aurignacian in S/W-France is differentiated into two successive episodes: During  an early  phase, corresponding to the classical Early  Aurignacian or Aurignacian I, the “Aurignacian  retouch” (scaled  and often stepped retouch) is common.  Endscrapers on Aurignacian blades, strangled blades (Fig 2: from Les Cottes) with bi-concave  edges, carinated and nosed end-scrapers, fashioned on thick flakes or chunks, burins (rare) and split base points, made from bone are common. Bladelet cores are of the  “carinated scraper” type, with a wide front were used to produce straight or curved blanks.  During  a recent  phase, corresponding to the Aurignacian II-IV of Peyrony,  bladelet cores are of the “nosed scraper” or  “busked burin” types and were used to produce small,  twisted blanks (Dufour; Both phases share several technological features: 1) blade debitage is unipolar and has the purpose of producing large, thick  blanks retouched into a diverse range of tools;  and 2) blades and bladelets are obtained through  separate procedures (Bordes 2004).

3There are no systematic studies about the question why blades with heavy marginal retouch are characteristic for the early Aurignacian. The high proportion of retouch on the margins of blades and endscrapers could indicate a specific type of hafting during this time period.  “Classic” large examples of strangled blades with endcraper modifications on their distal part (for example at Laussel and Ferrassie:, may substantiate this view. Strangeling, in this view could  simply represent an extreme degree of  secondary modification by retouching.

Technologically, invasive secondary modifications were the inevitable consequence of the characteristic thickness of Aurignacian blanks, requiring steep retouches. A comparable technological solution during the Middle Paleolithic was the  “Retouche ecaleuse scalariform”on Quina blanks ( It is not by chance, that the first prehistorians, suggested a direct link between the Quina Mousterian and the classic Aurignacian. A nice example how stylistic convergence can be mistaken as direct influence of one technocomplex to another…

In contrast, most of the examples shown here lack, beside their strangled part, any further working edge. In these cases, the notches of strangled blades would be  per-se the desired active part of the instrument and not the hafting-part. It is suggested, that the concave retouches could be useful in scraping organic materials. This hypothesis is also supported by the fact, that Aurignacian blades with only a single notch can be observed at several sites (for example at the Krems / Hundssteig-site; see the  last picture), which makes no sense, if haftig would be the aim of these notches. Again we lack of any experimental studies on this question.

strangulated blade carmel katzbach aggsbachThe fact, that the production of strangled blades is not dependent on raw material, duration of stay at a specific sites and the thickness of blanks (most of my examples are made on fine delicate blades), the long standing use of strangled blades over a vast area from the French Atlantic coast to the Zagros Mountains and the Negev is suggestive, that these implements were part of a certain tradition.

Foragers during the Upper Paleolithic were open minded for useful innovations although Aurignacian groups were much more isolated from each other, than groups during the later Phases of the Old Stone age.

More than 100 years after the “Bataille Aurignacien”  open questions could be easily answered by the evaluation of large samples of both museums-collections and the material from modern excavations, especially from S/W-France and the Swabian Alb.

Aurignacien-HundssteigKrems Hundssteig (Lower Austria): Strangled blades as displayed in the Vienna Naturhistorisches Museum
Further examples from La Rochette:
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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
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